Dr. T. Ryan Murphy

If you experience pain, swelling, or limited movement in your joints, you may be one of the millions of people in the United States living with some form of arthritis. WVU Medicine orthopaedic surgeon T. Ryan Murphy, MD, discusses the disease and shares lifestyle changes that can help decrease pain.

Arthritis is any pain and stiffness of a joint (where two or more bones in the body meet). Unfortunately, there is often no cure. Women typically experience arthritis and other rheumatic diseases more often than men. Aging increases arthritis risk too, but it can affect people of all ages. Hereditary factors and being overweight can also contribute to the problem.

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the joints over time. It affects the knee, hip, and spine joints, destroying the coating on the ends of bones (cartilage) and narrowing the joint space. It can cause bone spurs, bone cysts, and reduced function. Younger people may also experience osteoarthritis because of an injury or overuse of joints.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that impacts the joint linings and may affect all of the joints. It is caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own tissues. Organs, such as your heart or lungs, may also be affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

At the WVU Medicine Bone and Joint Hospital, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your individual health needs. We’ll explore all treatment possibilities, including non-operative and operative options. Our highly-skilled team approach to treatment may involve your primary care provider, a rheumatologist, a dietitian, an orthopaedic surgeon, a physical therapist, or other experts. We’ll help you determine the lifestyle changes that will be most beneficial to you and reduce your pain and inflammation.

Easy lifestyle changes that can help decrease pain may include:

  • Activity and rest: Avoid activities that worsen your pain and rest when possible to help reduce stress on your joints and ease arthritis symptoms.

  • Exercise: Low-impact activities like swimming, walking, and range-of-motion exercises may help reduce joint pain and stiffness, and keep your joints more flexible. Patients often feel aquatic exercises are very beneficial.

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatories work well to control pain but can have side effects. We’ll work with you to create a medication plan that reduces risks of side effects.

  • Adaptive equipment: Reachers and grabbers let you extend your reach and reduce straining. Dressing aids may also help you get dressed more easily.

  • Assistive devices: Canes, crutches, and walkers can help keep stress off certain joints and improve balance. Preventing falls becomes important as arthritis worsens.

  • Weight loss: Extra weight puts more stress on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Losing a few pounds can reduce pain and make future treatment easier.

If your symptoms significantly affect your quality of life or you notice any new or worsening symptoms, make an appointment with your provider. Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health.

To help you get the most out of the visit with your provider, consider doing the following:

  • Write down any questions that you’d like to have answered during your visit.

  • Bring a friend or family member with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider says.

  • Write down the name of your diagnosis, any new medicines, treatments, tests, or any new instructions your provider gives you.

  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

Learn more: Take the arthritis quiz